A Guided Encounter

with Picturing Mary


Notice the facial expressions throughout Sassoferrato’s painting.  See how the Child Jesus is gazing out at the viewer of the painting and that He holds a rosary in His hand.  He seems to be inviting us to know Mary through the rosary while also showing us, by his posture, what it is to rest in the arms of His Mother.

Mary is not just the Mother of Jesus but also our mother in heaven.  This painting, with the moon at Mary’s feet, reminds us that Mary now resides in heaven.  Catholics believe that Mary was assumed into heaven.  It was fitting that the body and especially the womb that was made holy by the Presence of Jesus should not undergo the corruption and decay of death.

Mary, as the first and perfect disciple of Christ, was graced by God with the gift of following her Son into a heavenly reward for a life of fidelity and obedience to God.  Christ died and rose from the dead so that we may rise with new life in Christ and gain eternal life.  Since the fruit of Christ’s victory over the grave for us is the gift of living forever with God in heaven, it was fitting that Mary, who was preserved from all sin by the grace of Christ, should not be separated from Her Son in death.  Rather, Jesus chose to bring Mary, body and soul, to live with Him in heaven. 

Looking at this picture, we see Mary in heaven and we are reminded of the reward that awaits all who faithfully follow Jesus until death.  As a loving mother, Mary continually prays for each of us asking God to give us the grace to join her in delighting forever in the presence of Jesus.  Looking at Jesus in the painting, let us imagine ourselves resting in the arms of our heavenly mother, Mary, who loves us.

Let us ask God for the grace to live, in imitation of Mary, the virtue of hope, so that we may desire God above all things and trust Him for our eternal salvation.  

Living the Encounter

You have encountered genuine beauty today in Giovanni Battista Salvi’s masterpiece, Madonna and Child.  Chose to live your encounter with beauty and share it with others.  Living beautifully is living virtuously.  Reflect upon the virtue of hope expressed in Mary’s life.  Ask yourself:

What situations or relationships in my life require me to practice hope?  Am I discouraged by my own failings or disappointed by others?  Take this opportunity to place your trust in God’s power and ability to bring grace and healing into your life and the lives of others.  God can bring good out of evil if we open our hearts and lives to His grace.  Trust that He makes all things new.  Take a moment to name the situations or relationships in your life in which you most need to trust God.  Offer these to God with a prayer of hope in your own words or use the following prayer:

Act of Hope:  O Lord God, I hope by Your grace for the pardon of all my sins and after life here to gain eternal happiness, because You have promised it, Who are infinitely powerful, faithful, kind and merciful.  In this hope I intend to live and die.  Amen

Deepen Your Encounter

After you leave the exhibit, return to your encounter with beauty and remember what you learned about the virtue of hope.  Take a moment to read the Scripture passage from Acts 7:54-60 and reflect upon how you can continue to live your encounter by practicing the virtue of hope in your life.

You've encountered beauty in Mary and her virtues.  Continue to live your encounter and live beautifully for others.

Inform Your Encounter

Read more about this Reflection from the Catechism:  CCC, nos. 966,  1817, 1818, 1819, 1820, 1821, 2090, 2091 

Learn more about practicing the virtue of hope  

Scripture passages related to the virtue of hope:  Acts 7:54-60, Hebrews 6:19-20; Romans 5:5; Romans 12:12; Hebrews 10:23

Read about saints who practiced the virtue of hope:  St. Maria Faustina Kowlaska, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton  

How is devotion to Mary different from worshiping Mary?
Learn about True Devotion to Mary

Mary’s Unique Role as Intercessor
Scripture Directs Prayer to Mary

Standards/USCCB Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for Young People related to this reflection
Unique role of Mary, Mother of God including the Annunciation and Mary’s “yes” (CCC, nos.484-487); Mary as an unparalleled recipient of God’s grace; Assumption (CCC, nos. 490-494, 966); Mary is ever-virgin (CCC, nos.499-507); Mary is Mother of the Church (CCC, 507, 829); Mary is the first disciple;  Christ as the Son of Mary, from the moment of the Incarnation (CCC, 486);  Mary and her role in the life and prayer of the Church (CCC, nos. 484-511, 721-726, 963-972, 829);  Universal call to holiness (CCC, nos.826, 2012-2014, 2028, 2045, 2013);  Accepting and living the grace of redemption by practicing the virtues of faith, hope and love (CCC, nos. 1803, 1812-1832);  Theological virtue of hope (CCC, nos. 2090-2092); Types of virtue, (CCC, nos. 1804-1832); Prayer in the life of a believer: lectio divina (CCC, nos. 1177, 2708) Jesus Christ reveals the Father to us, who we are, and our call to holiness;  By becoming man, and by his Death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ unites us to God (CCC, nos. 461-464);  We become the free adopted children of the Father through Baptism (Gal 4; CCC, nos. 1265-1270);  The Word became flesh (the Incarnation) (CCC, nos. 525-528, 456-478) to save us by reconciling us with God, who loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins (CCC, no.457); that we might come to know the depth of God’s love for us (CCC, 458); to be our model of holiness (CCC, no 459); to make us partakers of the divine nature (CCC, nos.457-460);


Giovanni Battista Salvi, called Sassoferrato

Madonna and Child, ca. 1650

Oil on canvas

52 3/8 x 38 5/8 in. (133 x 98)

Musei Vaticani, Vatican City

View online at the National Museum for Women in the Arts exhibit Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea

Share your Encounter

What did your encounter bring?   Share your experience and inspirations with others.  #MeetMary

PicturingMary.com is funded by private individuals who support the NMWA exhibit and offer the website materials for visitors to deepen their encounter with Mary as a woman, mother and idea. The reflections were written by a woman religious, Sr. John Paul Maher, O.P., who is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Elisabetta Sirani, Virgin and Child, 1663; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay. Conservation funds generously provided by the Southern California State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts